1 General Overview
The year 2019 started off with an extremely successful national sale. Mr Boeta Wessels sold the highest priced ram at R180,000 and distinguished himself further by selling a total of five rams for an average price of R106,400! The turnover on all sales was however 4.2% lower than that for 2018. Considering the downward trend of the South African economy and the general negative sentiment in the agricultural sector, our breeders can be congratulated for being extraordinarily successful.
The inherent value of Dohne Merino breeding material still renders current ram prices as being value for money. The breed society is grateful towards all woolled sheep advisors who supported our breeders in an able manner to make extremely high-quality rams available to the woolled sheep industry during 2019. All factors considered, the trademark of hardiness of the breed as well as its versatility in an extremely volatile economic climate, earned the Dohne Merino an increasing portion of the competitive woolled sheep market. Breeders are urged to concentrate on breeding superior stock with a significant commercial impact rather than visually appealing rams which are artificially reared to be exchanged for prices not related to production values. The report on breed activities during 2019 is released only at the end of 2020 to be able to reflect on the selection practiced on 2018 born animals (now two years old) and the outcome thereof. It is trusted that this report will contribute towards improvement on some scientific aspects of Dohne Merino breeding and to expand the breed which is currently in international demand.
2 Membership and flock size
Membership of the breed (102 in Table 1) as well as the total number of registered ewes (34,254) increased despite adverse farming conditions. The increase in membership was the consequence of upgrading flocks being established on account of the general popularity of the breed. The breed’s core of membership remains stable.
Table / Tabel 1: Membership and population size / Lidmaatskap en populasie grootte
|Registered Members/ Geregistreerde Lede||88||86||89||89||89||97||98||90||90||102|
|Honorary Members/ Ere Lede||7||8||8||8||7||6||6||6||4||4|
|No of recorded ewes/
Getal geregistreerde ooie
The number of honorary members (Table 1) stayed at the same level as last year and the council of the society is considering awarding honorary membership to one or two worthy candidates.
According to Table 2, the size of studs, compared to 2018, increased marginally. The increase in ewe numbers (Table 1) can be explained by the increase in size of the larger studs with more than 200 ewes as well as the new comers in the industry with only 50 or less ewes. Past experience indicates a high level of instability in the latter category of studs. The trend in the Dohne Merino stud industry of being increasingly dominated by larger enterprises, is in line with what is happening internationally in all types of livestock. Larger numbers of animals per flock not only benefit from the advantage of scale but also lead to accelerated genetic change and improved service to flock breeders.
Table / Tabel 2 Analysis of stud size – Ontleding van stoetgrootte
|Studs with 300 or more ewes||45||45||40||43||48||46||54||39||39||47|
|Stoeterye met tussen 200 en 299 ooie||9||9||15||14||12||15||12||22||22||17|
|Studs with between 100 and 199 ewes||20||20||21||15||9||9||10||8||8||13|
|Stoeterye met tussen 50 en 99 ooie||8||7||5||7||7||6||8||9||9||8|
|Studs with less than 50 ewes||6||5||8||10||7||8||13||12||12||17|
|Active breeders/Aktiewe telers||88||86||89||89||83||84||98||90||90||102|
According to figure 1, the distribution of Dohne Merinos per region changed only marginally from 2018 to 2019. The ewe contributions by regions 1 and 2 (Eastern Cape and Karoo) became smaller by one percent and that for region 4 (Western Cape and Western Karoo) declined by two percent. The relative size of region 3 (Overberg) remained constant while regions five (Free State) and six (Eastern Free State, Mpumalanga and KZN) increased by one percent and two percent respectively. These small changes resulted in region 5 (Free State) remaining the biggest with region six (Eastern Freestate Mpumalanga and KZN) the second biggest with region 4 (Western Cape and Western Karoo) the smallest. The number of registered ewes per region varies between 3730 and 7155 which is almost the same as the situation described for 2018. It can be accepted that drought conditions and specifically the Western Karoo areas of South Africa had a small effect on ewe numbers whilst the breed had grown marginally in the central and Eastern Free State.
3 Lambing percentage
The lambing percentage for all studs in 2018 seems to have stabilized at 146% (Table 3). This high level of reproduction may be regarded as the result of applying advanced technology to counteract the negative prevailing financial and physical farming conditions in South Africa. It is trusted that, Dohne Merino farmers will use this opportunity of improved surveillance of their flocks’ reproduction to select hardy and adapted ewes.
Figure 1: Distribution of stud Dohne Merinos on a regional basis
Table 3 Lambing percentage of stud Dohne Merino ewes
4 Inspections & selection intensity
Table 4 indicates the number of sheep approved, expressed as a percentage of the number of lambs present at final inspection (12 months). According to the figures in Table 4, 12.4 percent less animals were approved than for 2017. These figures also indicate an increasing trend regarding the approval of ewes. This trend may be instrumental in the expansion of flock size observed (Table 2). It is expected that this trend will not continue and that the quality of the ewe population will suffer. However, no significant effect could be detected on the quality of the rams offered for sale.
Table/Tabel 4 Number of sheep approved and selection intensity/Getal skape goedgekeur en seleksie intensiteit
|Lamb crop/ Lammeroes||2010||2011||2012||2013||2014||2015||2016||2017||2018|
|Ewes/ Ooie||5389 (53%)||5933 (54%)||7435 (57%)||7804 (55%)||8717 (57%)||8069 (47%)||6658 (47%)||9781 (59%)||8469 (60%)|
|Ramme/ Rams||5212 (48%)||5544 (48%)||6360 (50%)||7199 (48%)||6518 (48%)||6460 (39%)||5418 (39%)||7376 (50%)||6564 (50%)|
|AA Rams/ AA Ramme||2161 (19%)||2303 (19%)||2727 (20%)||2892 (17%)||2896 (17%)||2866 (16%)||2496 (16%)||3016 (20%)||2469 (19%)|
Compared to the 15 688 F3 ewes inspected during 2018, only 12 564 were inspected during 2019 (Table 5). A total of 1007 (8.0 percent) were approved. F3 ewes constituted only 2.9 percent of all registered Dohne Merino ewes. Therefore, Dohne Merino breeders are encouraged to make more regular use of F3 ewes to enlarge their gene pool. The practice of upgrading from flock animals becomes more critical when using proportionally less sires of perceived higher quality. When using a few sires extensively, potentially higher levels of inbreeding and narrowing of the gene pool may pose some problems for the breed. By increasing the use of F3 ewes to the rule of thumb figure of 5 percent, all these potential threats and their adverse effects may be avoided. Simultaneously, adaptability to commercial farming conditions will be promoted in studs which are more prone to the effect of artificially improved reproduction etc. Efficient use of this “tool” remains crucial to branding the breed as “hardy and adaptable”.
Table/Tabel 5 Number of F3-ewes inspected/Getal F3-ooie geinspekteer
5 Sales of breeding material
The total number of 2 619 rams sold during 2019 at an average price of R11 470 resulted in a turnover of approximately R31.6 million. The average price for 7 percent less rams sold in 2019 is four percent lower than the record figure for 2018. The trend is that commercial farmers are prepared to pay higher prices for top genetic material to use in their own ‘improvement programs’. The responsibility therefore rests on Dohne Merino stud breeders to manage this trend effectively to secure their own income and also to advise their clients on how to manage their breeding material in a sustainable manner.
Table/Tabel 6: Sales – 2016 – Veilings
|No of public sales/ Pub veil||52||49||48||48||44||45||46||48|
|No of rams sold/ Ramme verk||2,747||2,707||2774||2718||2524||2603||2810||2619|
|Turnover / Omset||21,659,800||22,299,404||23,997,299||22,793,750||23,243,400||28,807,401||32,980,970||31,568,567|
|Highest price/ Hoogste prys||130||190||160||130,000×2||110||220||335||180|
|Average price/ Gemid prys||7,885||8,259||8,651||8,386||9,204||11,067||11,737||11,47|
|No of ewes transf/ Ooi oordra||229||294||396||929||482||366||276||236|
In this regard, the optimum balance between supply and demand is of critical importance.
6 Technical matters
6.1 Production recording
A total of 35,274, 2018 born lambs were recorded compared to 38,543 lambs for 2017. However, 25879 sheep (107 more than 2017) were evaluated and by implication the loss between weaning and 12 months of age became 6.7 percent less than for 2017 born animals. These figures of course indicate more efficient evaluation of both ewes and rams and our breeders can be complimented for consistent objective assessment of all stud animals. It is however still concerning that a few breeders lag behind in timeous submission of data to the office of the breed society with the consequence that breeding values for animals in some other flocks are not updated.
A major concern is that flock breeders, despite being informed otherwise, pay higher prices for phenotypically better fed and managed rams rather than for better producing and more functional rams. The result is that breeders managed their 2018 born rams better for sales according to the body weights recorded at 12 months of age (Table 7). In the long run, continuing with this practice will be catastrophic to both stud and flock breeders. The Society therefore recommends that breeders follow the commercially set target weights for evaluating all stud animals. It must also be noted that the WPP% of the breed increased slightly. Although WPP% is a phenotypic parameter, breeders must take note to preserve the true dual purpose nature of the breed.
Table/Tabel 7 Average production values of Dohne Merinos/Gemiddelde produksiewaardes
|No Animals 100 days/
Getal diere 100 dae
|8,901||16,489||13,519 13,483||17,050 16,067||16,753 17,066||17,200 17,300||18867 18730||16511 16340||19294 19249||17576 17698|
|28.14||29.76||29.87 32.41||29.57 31.69||29.12 31.33||28.79 30.96||28.24 30.31||30.04 32.51||27.7 29.1||30.07 32.49|
|No Animals at 12 mths/
Getal diere 12 mde
|21,776||21,318||11,518 10,878||14,115 12,268||12,544 12,123||13,350 12,073||14,379 12,416||15,057 11,710||13909 11798||13771 12108|
|59.75||60.75||45.80 62.02||45.15 60.39||44.64 60.64||45.26 60,25||45.30 60.08||46.54 60.19||46.47 63.69||47.68 65..16|
|Clean Fleece weight/
|3.08||3.09||2.79 3.35||2.81 3.34||2.62 3.05||2.66 3.16||3.03 3.32||3.02 3.30||2.61 3.10||3.02 3.61|
|18.48||18.40||17.90 18.33||17.68 17.94||17.72 17.93||17.58 17.84||17.94 18.00||17.94 17.96||17.70 18.10||17.91 18.24|
|WPP %||5.15||5.09||6.09 5.40||6.22 5.53||5.9 5.0||5.88 5.24||6.50 5.51||6.48 5.48||5.62 4.87||6.33 5.54|
6.2 Other technical matters
Upgrading of the office computing system is progressing slowly and integration with Shepherd is underway. It is also noteworthy that the Shepherd on-farm software package was also upgraded to provide for electronic ear-tagging under leadership of the breed society.
7 Top Breeder awards
Congratulations to the National Top breeder Mr Wynand du Toit (Suidplaas Dohnes, Bredasdorp)
The Dohne Merino Breed Society thanks our sponsors – Virbac, BKB and Voermol who over many years have sponsored this prestigious event.
8.1 Annual General Meeting
After appropriate election of councilors, the following council was appointed: Koos Vosloo (president), Philippie Marais (vice-president), Andries Marx, Andries Greyling, Marcellene van Rooyen, Clark Rattray, DH (Boeta) Wessels, JH (Koenas) van der Westhuizen and Richard Armstrong.
The Breed Society’s finances were sound. Provision was made for the appointment of an additional staff member to assist in rendering an even better service to members of the Society.
8.3 Per capita fee
It was decided to increase the per capita fee by R1,00 to R19,50 to provide for improved marketing of the breed.
8.4 Courses and Promotion
The Society’s regular courses were very well attended, and three new inspectors were appointed.
The exhibition at the Alpha Expo as well as at the Aldam Sheep School and Nampo Cape provided excellent exposure to the breed.
Outstanding service was provided by office personnel consisting of three employees and two temporary workers.
9 Acknowledgements and thanks
The support of all the various organizations in the woolled sheep industry, who were responsible for the success achieved by the Dohne Merino Breed Society is acknowledged with special gratitude. A special word of thanks to all our sponsors, breeders and inspectors who are vital to the efficient and continued service of the breed to the small stock industry.